I was one of the beta testers for this laptop, so I've been using it for the last few months. [If anybody has any questions about it, I'd be happy to answer them - I've used many different laptops over the years for comparison.]
I couldn't be happier with it - I have a larger laptop that I use as my "main" computer at home (essentially as if it were a desktop), and the XPS13 is what I take with me everywhere and use for presentations, developing on the go, etc.
I've used Linux as my main OS for some years now, and for me the main appeal of this computer was the size/weight/battery life when compared to my larger laptop. If you've been waiting for a Linux ultrabook for portable development (or even just ultra-portable general use), this is it.
Compared to my work computer (a Macbook Air), the difference is enormous. Hardware-wise, the XPS13 just feels slimmer, even though the difference in size/weight is negligible. The biggest physical differences are the keys and trackpad - I'm typing this now on a mechanical keyboard, and I've gotten so used to the Das Keyboard that I can't stand the feel of chiclet-style keys. However, the shape of the XPS13 keys (slightly indented) alleviates some of the annoyances I have with most laptop keyboards (the Air included). The trackpad is highly sensitive, and I like the texture slightly more than that of the Macbook Air.
Battery life is great, even with Bluetooth turned on (though I usually leave this off - I still haven't found a real use for Bluetooth on my computers!).
I should mention the display - it's the perfect size for me. I actually dislike the Macbook Air on this one point - it absolutely kills my eyes by the end of the day (both the default size and default brightness/contrast). I have neither of these problems with the XPS13, but it's still crisp enough that I don't feel like I'm missing anything.
Overall, I'm incredibly happy that I got it, and I actually get slightly annoyed now when I have to use my Macbook Air for work - I wish I could be using the XPS13 instead. Aside from the fact that I'd rather be using Linux any day, hands-down, the computer just feels more physically appealing in itself. Even at its price, it's worth every penny.
 I should note that I received my testing laptop at a 20% discount, though after using it, I would be willing to pay full price for it if I'd had to.
I use my retina macbook for everything, and have not found myself using the dell at all, even when traveling. I didn't consider bringing it because I like the Mac so much more.
It is really nice hardware, with the exception that the screen has a much narrower viewing angle than either my macbook or my wife's macbook air. Also the trackpad is not as smooth as my macbook's, and more frequently registers the wrong kind of click.
Ubuntu has worked very well, and seems to be completely supported.
I greatly prefer the mac hardware, and would recommend an Air over the Dell.
edit: since parent disclosed that he got 20% off, I'll disclose that I was very fortunate to receive one for free at a conference raffle.
Please don't get me wrong or take it the wrong way,
But I just can't seem to get over the fact that you are obviously not a Linux person (you seem to have strong preferences and by the looks of it, you know well that you are very much a Mac person), who won a Linux laptop for free and hasn't used it at all.
Had you but magnanimously declined the offer and passed it on, someone else could have used it happily all along....
Give me a break. Do you think Dell really wanted to give this only to customers who loved it? No! The point of these beta tests is to get feedback from people. If they only gave to people who say "it's so great I love it!" what's the point of giving it away at all? They could just sell it to those people. Dell gave out these laptops to hear people like OP's comments so that they might improve their product and actually sell some to their target audience: geeks like Linus who want a portable, well built linux laptop, or geeks who have Apple laptops that would be willing to switch to a comparable linux laptop for whatever reason. Dell was beta testing these to get feedback, not to provide someone else to use their product happily for free.
First off, OP mentioned he got it for free in a conference raffle: Dell already achieved their free publicity/sponsorship/whatever by announcing this laptop in the beginning of the conference, and by the time the raffle winner was announced, it is already out of Dell's hands, and between OP and organisers. At this point, had he mentioned that he is probably not going to be using it at all because of his strong Mac preference, another ticket would have been drawn and hey presto.....
>>> The point of these beta tests is to get feedback from people
Exactly. And that's my main point. In all this time, feedback was not at all achieved (edit: contrast with, say @chimeracoder's review above), because by his own account, he barely used the laptop, ergo, no feedback to Dell or anyone else in the matter.....
Which is why I mentioned in the original comment "someone else could have used it happily all along...." (note the ellipsis, where the ending is left unsaid, as in, it c(w)ould have resulted in feedback, in the very least)
I would be one of those people, but at 1500 dollars, seems a bit steep, for the hardware involved. I just got my Chromebook (ARM, 3G) and I'm amazed at just how well everything runs on it. But I don't think that the Dell is my target anyway, as I'm more of a u-boot, and kernel work is more my area of expertise rather than shoving things off into the cloud.
Kudos to Dell for doing this, hopefully more vendors will follow suit.
Right, the price is very steep. With that cost, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon would be a much better choice. I would've expected Dell to be able to sell this at a much more competitive price point. But in this case, he got it for free, which is a completely different story.
1) it's kind of unfair, because I've been using macs since... 2007 maybe? I was 100% linux from 2002-2007, then switched to macs.
Despite my familiarity with linux, I can't be sure that simple comfort with the Mac OS isn't part of it. I don't much like the new Gnome (haven't used it since 2007, remember), nor do I care to learn how to install a different window manager and thereby spend the time supporting it.
2) The monitor is the biggest issue for me, followed by the mouse.
The monitor is low resolution, and feels very small compared to the retina monitor. Not a fair comparison, I know! But it's the one I make with the two computers side by side.
3) The dell keyboard is just as good as the mac's, and unlike most PCs, the overall hardware package generally feels very solid, simple, and well thought out. The carbon fiber bottom feels very cool. It's not quite as nice as the Air, but it's not too far away.
So, those are basically the reasons that it sits on my desk, unused, next to my macbook. Also, obviously I don't mind travelling with a slightly larger and heavier computer.
> nor do I care to learn how to install a different window manager and thereby spend the time supporting it.
Since you haven't used linux in 5 years I'll be the fanboy that points out Linux, and Ubuntu especially, has grown up a lot since then.
How do you install an application? You open a package manager and hit the install button. Same thing with desktop environments. You want KDE? 'sudo apt-get install kubuntu-desktop'. Xfce is 'xubuntu-desktop'. Hell, even gnome classic can be installed this way with 'gnome-panel'.
LightDM will automatically notice the new environment. All you have to do is log out, then choose the desktop environment you want and log back in.
Window managers usually take a little more fiddling to install properly but I assume that's not what you meant since you referenced gnome.
I was an ion3 guy back in the day. Installing and configuring those window managers (which I loved!) is why I left linux... I don't want to spend my time futzing around with the computer instead of getting work done.
I think it might be doable, although it would take quite some skill and nasty hacks.
The various half-assed "click-to-arrange" utilities (SizeUp et al) demonstrate that windows can be placed, sized, hidden and shown programmatically.
Other utilities demonstrate that mouse-position, clicks etc. can be detected and intercepted, and that you can render raster-overlays on top of the desktop. Window drop shadows can be disabled, the window chrome probably can't - but I wouldn't mind that.
An ion for OSX would probably have to draw its GUI (grid and tabs) as an overlay and then arrange the windows underneath. It would probably also have to intercept all mouse-actions and decide whether to pass them on.
The devil will obviously be in the details, and there will be lots of them. But in principle it doesn't seem impossible to go from something like http://www.tylerwm.com to something that actually works...
Ubuntu has made remarkable strides, but overall usability is stuck somewhere between Windows 95 and Windows XP. On the whole that's not bad, but compared to systems with more refinement, which would include Windows 7 and OS X, it does look rather rickety.
There's nothing technically in the way of Ubuntu being a first class operating system that way except for someone to spend a lot of time designing it from a holistic standpoint. The inconsistencies and lack of attention to detail are what separate the approximations of good UX to great UX.
If you think `apt-get` is even remotely user friendly, you're not seeing the forest for the trees. Ubuntu has an incredible collection of software and with the right interface it would be even easier to use than MacPorts, Homebrew, or any app store out there, but this is going to take time to make happen.
Also be careful what you describe as "fiddling" because for most people that means "beat head against wall until bleeding, then throw computer out window".
For me, LInux/BSD is much more usable than Windows 7 & Mac OSX for some tasks. Windows wins some as well. I cant think of, at the top of my head, anything OSX does best usability wise for me. But it's also the OS i use the least.
It combines a first-class graphical user environment with a fully UNIX-compliant command-line environment. For a web developer it really is as good as it gets. You get to run your text, image, audio or video editor in the graphical environment and the same server applications as you'd use on your production server.
With Linux you'll have to make compromises on the desktop side, as there's a smaller choice of first-class applications, and on Windows your server selection is extremely limited in comparison.
Linux has an amazing command-line infrastructure, though only slightly better than OS X, and mostly this is just to do with having better package managers.
Windows has an amazing desktop environment, very responsive (on the right hardware) and with deep application support for high-performance 3D. Linux is making strides here, and OS X is often close but limited by the capabilities of OpenGL and the slightly less refined drivers.
Agree on the pros of OSX for web development but for me that is less and less important.
Today you can so easily use VMs (eg. vagrant) to really have the same enviroment for dev/qa/production it doesnt really matter what OS you prefer.
The beauty of Apple for me is much more about the exceptional hardware quality thats blends with very good software
1) I don't care about most people. My comment was directed at a developer who wouldn't have any troubles learning if he decides to switch back.
2) I find it hard to imagine an interface that's simpler than opening a terminal and typing 'apt-get install gnome-panel'. Sure, there's a chance you'll have to type 'Y' and confirm that you really wanted to install that many packages, but I think the fact that it asks instead of blindly downloading and applying a ton of packages actually a data point /for/ the 'user friendly apt-get' case.
> The monitor is the biggest issue for me, followed by the mouse.
That's interesting, because the mouse is one of the biggest turnoffs for me when it comes to OS X. I never could get used to the acceleration curve, despite installing 3rd party software to modify it.
There's also the issue of not having a pointing stick on Macs, but that's another subject entirely.
Mouse acceleration is something you get used to pretty quickly, a full day of usage is enough to not even notice it anymore. I use both OSX (trackpad), windows with a 1600dpi mouse, and play games with acceleration disabled. For work I prefer OSX's acceleration, it feels more precise/natural.
I never got used to the OS X mouse curve either. The mouse acceleration on the Mac has always been a bit leaden at low speeds, and too fast at higher speeds, even with Mac OS. It's odd, because the trackpad acceleration is very well done.
The best solution I've found is to buy a Microsoft mouse. As with most Microsoft hardware, they're good value. You can then use the supplied Intellipoint for Mac OS X software, which, along with a bunch of pointless junk, lets you activate a Windows-style acceleration curve. It might sound daft, but this utterly transformed my experience of OS X.
I mentioned the 3rd party software in your link ("Mouse Acceleration Preference Pane") in my initial post as something I'd tried. In any case, it was a work machine and I'm no longer there, so it's not particularly important anymore.
> 2007 maybe? I was 100% linux from 2002-2007, then switched to macs.
> Despite my familiarity with linux, I can't be sure that simple comfort with the Mac OS isn't part of it.
That's probably the reason, honestly - I'm coming at this as a daily Linux user who already knows how everything works, and all I want is that same experience on an Ultrabook.
I can't speak for Dell, but I don't think this laptop could/should really compete for the same audience as the Macbook Air... if you're happy with using OS X on Apple hardware - if it's "good enough" - there's probably not much that could get you to switch.
In my case, Linux is my first choice by far, so the choice between using my Ultrabook and using my work computer always results in me reaching for the ultrabook.
Oh, they very well may be (probably are, in fact). I'm just saying that it's better to think of it as a laptop for Linux users who want something Air-like, as opposed to Air users who want Linux.
That's simply because it's much harder to replace something that's "good enough", even with something that's hands-down better on all fronts (take a look at Plan 9 vs. UNIX)
For users like me, a Mac isn't even close to "good enough", so I like some of the additional things this provides versus other solutions (installing Linux manually on another Ultrabook or on a laptop and providing my own support). For users who are already happy with a Macbook Air, this is probably good enough if you couldn't use your Air, but the added convenience may not compensate the friction of changing, even if you've used Linux in the past.
In other words, that friction doesn't exist for existing Linux users.
As someone who's been using a Mac since 2008-ish, beginning with a 17" A4, I'm really considering buying this Dell and moving to Ubuntu permanently. I have a few gripes with Apple laptops and I was wondering if you could refute or lend an opinion on why(or why not) the Dell would be an option.
1) I really hate the hardware upsell. With this XPS machine I'm getting a 256gb SSD, 8G RAM, and an 3GHz i7 processor. The comparable hardware for a 13" Retina is $2,200 and it's still not as light or thin. The comparable Air is missing a GHz of processing speed and still costs an extra $150. Also, there isn't a team of OEM Apple developers writing Ubuntu PPA support for either machine, so I'm stuck on OS X again, which I'm pretty disillusioned with.
2) I'm actually still not really clear what the advantage of a retina display is. Maybe it's because I haven't been able to use one for a significant timespan, but I just don't get it. If there was a way to clearly and easily illustrate why a 13" display benefits from retina resolution, I'd really appreciate it.
3) I'm kind've ready for a change from Apple products. I haven't used a high end laptop or PC from any other manufacturer and I feel like I don't know what I'm missing, if I'm missing anything.
If you or the other XPS tester can respond at all, thanks in advance.
>2) I'm actually still not really clear what the advantage of a retina display is. Maybe it's because I haven't been able to use one for a significant timespan, but I just don't get it. If there was a way to clearly and easily illustrate why a 13" display benefits from retina resolution, I'd really appreciate it.
How good is your eyesight? Honest question. The difference is night and day for me and I wonder how I lived with that blurry thing for so long.
Not very good, honestly. From what I've read, switching to a higher resolution wont really give me more work space, just make things more crisp, but I'm not sure how significant that would be for someone who wears corrective lenses already.
Maybe I'll look for some kind of 1:1 13" comparison...
I have terrible eyesight (somewhere between legally blind and failing a drivers' license vision test) and I find my eyes are usually less tired at the end of a day working on my retina MacBook than they were after a day of using my old 1440x900 13" laptop.
Smaller text is more legible, and larger text is less jagged around the edges so both seem to be less of a strain on my eyes. My thinking is that the sharper the image displayed, the less work my eyes and brain have to do to fill in the gaps.
This could all just be me subconsciously trying to justify the purchase (although I have no regrets about it) and obviously YMMV so I'd suggest going into a store and doing a side-by-side comparison using an application that has been updated for the retina resolutions.
It makes things crisp enough that those higher resolutions are practical. Sure, you can turn your font size down low with a low res screen, but you rapidly get to a point where the characters are harder to distinguish. Not so with the retina screens. Really you just have to see the difference. It's striking.
I wear corrective lenses and I can see precise visual detail still. And my prescription is -8. It's the same difference between a retina iphone and a non-retina iphone. You'll see more details in your photographs. Denser text is more readable and so on.
Fair response, the list wanted to be in question form, turned into hem hawing about anti-apple opinion. I'm still on the fence about 13" resolution and I can't seem to find resources to help me make the choice. Thanks for the reply.
Unless I'm mistaken the Air gives me slightly less horizontal space and slightly more vertical? And it's still a 13" form factor? How different could it be from the 13" MBP I run now aside from size/weight, hardware performance, and portability?
I desperately need a laptop for freelancing as my current one is falling apart and I can't afford to replace it at the moment. If you don't use yours, perhaps you could give me a discount or something?
Sorry, but this reads like a paid review (which you disclosed in the last sentence).
One of the most important things for a developer is a screen with as much vertical resolution as possible. Why didn't they put the 1440x900 in it? The Macbook Air still seems to be the best (developer) Ultrabook when I consider all specs. And it is by far not the most expensive.
> Maybe if you do front-end/design work - I don't. I actually prefer the resolution on this compared to the Macbook Air - less eye strain when staring at a terminal all day.
Well, just increase the font size. Having a larger resolution allows you to see the same amount of content with better font rendering (only because of the larger point size on a larger resolution, I'm not going to discuss Linux vs OS X font rendering again).
No way to do that globally on OS X, and it's not just font size that's the problem.
> I'm not going to discuss Linux vs OS X font rendering again
If that's what important to you, then yes, you're probably not going to be happy with anything but a Mac. This computer isn't really meant for people who are happy with OS X on Apple's hardware, if you ask me.
For me, I care about the display only to the extent that I get eye strain - beyond that, the other advantages of Linux (esp. on officially supported hardware) win out by far.
> You specifically mentioned the terminal, I thought that was your issue.
In a different context - I meant that I don't care about vertical resolution, font accuracy, color accuracy, etc., because my work doesn't require that.
My problem isn't (just) the size of the font in the terminal (and the rendering on open-source fonts on a Linux terminal is perfectly fine, in any case).
> Higher resolution is always better, in my book.
On Linux, sure, higher resolution is no worse, but that doesn't mean I care about the marginal difference that much. On OS X, that's not the case, but it's not as simple as the resolution, but the resolution combined with the font size, and the size of icons/toolbars/etc., as well as the inability to change global font size, etc.
Because the fine-grained tools don't exist, for me, the lower resolution ends up being slightly better, even if some (theoretical) combination of higher resolution and larger font/icon size., etc. could be even better than that.
I got a brand new UX31A recently and the keyboard does not even work...
As in, the "backspace", "d", and few other keys will not even register. Tried updating and rebooting too. I returned it for another unit so let's hope it is just a few odd batches that has this mfg defect.
Googling this problem should give you more details.
I don't understand the reason for doing this, the main reason to buy the apple hardware is the ability to run OSX, which is just a much more polished unix distro than Xubuntu. If, all you need is to run Linux then you can use one of the plethora of other great machines and save money. I know this is what LT does, so maybe doing this is some form of hero worship/copy. He at least has a good reason for it.
Personally I have an Air with OSX and I shell into Linux for work. I can use vmware for a local copy if I wanted but I prefer to use my servers that Linode manages. That way when I loose my Air or it gets stolen or whatever, my work stays in good standing. Maybe I just never got past the old days, for me the laptop is something for running ssh, chrome and photoshop.
My main reason for buying MacBooks these days is actually build quality. The solid aluminum design is just insanely rugged, especially with the light weight of the Air. You could run an 11" inch Air through the tumble cycle of a dryer and it would probably be just fine--albeit a bit dinged up. My Thinkpads were always trashed within a couple years.
I also don't think you can objectively say OSX is the most "polished" Unix. Especially in the area of package management, which, as a developer, takes up a huge part of my week, OSX is sort of half-assedly catching up. And that's only with third party tools like Homebrew and MacPorts.
Other areas OSX is more polished. But as a UNIX it's not a clear winner.
I will second that on the MacBook Air. I take mine all over the world with me, and out into the field. My 2010 MacBook Air 13" has been beaten up like you wouldn't believe - I've dropped it (twice ) from a height of 5' onto concrete, onto it's corner - it bent quite a bit, but still performs flawlessly. It's with me in my backpack 100% of the time, and is treated very, very roughly. The only downside of the MBAir is how slippery it is (which is why it came out of my unzipped backpack).
My Dell Latitude 510 (and then 620) - both never made it past year 2 before suffering structural failure.
I transitioned from Macs to Linux over the last decade and I can remember Mac OS X before they adopted CUPS, printing was pretty grim then, but then again so were many other things in the OS. But you could see the potential, even as people like John Gruber railed against every minor inconsistency. It's a similar story with Desktop Linux and Android.
I'm actually looking at Air now, and the build is what is making me look elsewhere. I understand the form factor is nice to use, but the non-replaceable battery and soldered-on SSD means it won't last long, and it's not that I can't afford new one every two years, it's that I hate to buy something with planned obsolesce.
My main workstation is a two year old Air, with no problems so far. I expect it to last me another year, maybe more. My needs may be simpler than yours, though: mostly I just run emacs and web browsers. I rarely use memory-hungry IDEs, and never edit video.
> The solid aluminum design is just insanely rugged, especially with the light weight of the Air.
Uh... I dont recommend dropping your mac air.
Speaking as someone who spent multiple years with a thinkpad T60 and a 13in MBA, it's without a question the thinkpad is much more rugged. Be especially careful with the screen on the MBA. If you drop it even a short distance, the aluminum will be damaged, and it might break internal components such as the webcam, which can't be fixed without replacing the whole screen. I love my MBA, but certainly not because it's rugged.
If you wanted build quality you should've purchased a Panasonic, AINEC. If you want a "slightly nixy" whizbang OS but can compromise on package management you want a Macbook, but not for the build quality.
I prefer having military grade hardware (Panasonic), the best no compromises OS in the world (Linux), and the ability to virtualize Windows if need be. Just about had a heart attack when I saw your post. :)
I only wish I could easily virtualize OS/X. Come on, Apple.
“If, all you need is to run Linux then you can use one of the plethora of other great machines and save money.”
I didn't find that to be the case. The ThinkPad X1 Carbon was the only Ultrabook that compared at all favorably to the Air in reviews, and it costs something like $1450 versus $1140 for the Air. Thought about it. Couldn't justify the higher price. (Edit: Price has apparently dropped, see below)
Another contender was Asus' Zenbook Prime, which got mostly good reviews and is cheaper than the Air. But it's only slightly cheaper ($1080) and the Ubuntu wiki mentioned a bunch of ugly issues I didn't want to deal with: https://help.ubuntu.com/community/AsusZenbookPrime
Xubuntu (Ubuntu with the Xfce desktop) is my favorite operating system. I'm not settling for less by using it. I set out to run Xubuntu on a great, lightweight laptop with an SSD, and the Air was the most compelling option. Simple as that.
> The ThinkPad X1 Carbon was the only Ultrabook that compared at all favorably to the Air in reviews, and it costs something like $1450 versus $1140 for the Air. Thought about it. Couldn't justify the higher price.
This is not true. Lenovo (like pretty much every company except Apple) has regular discounts. You can easily get the ThinkPad X1 Carbon for a price comparable to the Air. Also, I would say that the X1 Carbon is better than the Air in many ways. You get a bigger screen, higher resolution, better keyboard, the TrackPoint, and a 3G SIM card slot.
I wish this were true because I'm dying for a new laptop, but I haven't seen a single one other than the Air that can compare in specs.
Does the X1 Carbon come with 8GB of RAM, a Core i7, and a battery that lasts 6+ hours? Do you know of a single laptop other than a MacBook (and the Samsung Series 9 15" which is too huge for 1600x900 resolution) that carries those specs? If you do, I'll buy it immediately.
My X1 Carbon has 8 GB RAM, it has lasted for 5+ hours without the battery getting to a critically low level (I've only had it 2 days, so I haven't fully tested it), and it has a Core i5. The only issue is that the Core i7 option and 8 GB RAM option appear to be mutually exclusive, so I went with the Core i5, and I haven't regretted it so far.
Also keep in mind that there are also several advantages to the X1 Carbon over the MacBook Air, which I mentioned in my previous post. The biggest one is that despite being the same physical size as the 13" MacBook Air, you get a 14" screen.
I'm the kind of person who believes that Apple's hardware is much nicer than their software, especially when it comes to their Macbooks.
OSX is awesome for most people, but for me I could never get a hang of it. The lack of having a package manager has always been confusing to me. A package manager is very similar to an "App-store" why not have one to keep things simple for developers?
I would have weird Kernel panics with the newest generation Macbook Air, this was very odd, but I don't fault OSX for it.
This is purely a personal preference, but the window management was a very frustrating experience for me. The OSX dock seems so unintuitive for me. If an application is open there's a tiny blue dot to signify that it's open. I can't really explain it, I just don't like it. There were a lot of odd inconsistencies when managing windows in OSX that I can't really remember but would frustrate me.
I'm not really saying OSX is bad, just giving you a perspective from somebody who thought the Mac hardware is much, much better than their software.
It's very much not as cut and dried as you imply here whether OS X is better than linux. Anyone I know who knows enough to actually make an informed decision about both, thinks linux is better. Almost to the extent that I'd make the exact reverse observation you make, that it's completely obvious linux is better.
However, I know many people who just don't know linux very well who are happy sticking with OS X, so I don't think that's a valid observation to make either.
Interestingly, sleep has been working perfectly on my Vaio Z-series, which is a laptop that (for various reasons) you would think would support Linux really poorly. I think the general state of Linux support has just improved on essentially every front in the recent past.
One problem I have out of the box with xubuntu (i.e., xfce) is that if I suspend it in a docked configuration (with an external monitor connected and laptop display turned off) and wake it up in undocked config, it doesn't automatically switch to showing stuff on the laptop.
Dunno if it's an XFCE thing or a Ubuntu thing or an X thing or a Linux thing. I'm too lazy to debug this fully. I just yank the power and reboot. :)
One thing that works for me is setting up scripts using arandr for each display config. Then before undocking I open a terminal fullscreen and run the script for the post-docking config. The script pauses when asking for my password. I then undock the laptop and open it and type my password. The laptop screen wakes up no problem. I do the same thing when I want to dock it. This is definitely more annoying than things happening automatically, but less annoying than rebooting.
I did that too, but I went the extra step of writing a little Ruby script to switch between them based on the number of outputs xrandr says is connected, and then I bound that to a keyboard shortcut, so I don't have to mess around in the terminal. I just hit ctrl-alt-M.
This has worked fine for me under Ubuntu on my current EeePc and my previous ThinkPad X41. The only issue with sleep on the ThinkPad X41 was that eventually sleeping/waking would cause the headphone jack to stop working without a reboot (or a suspend-to-disk).
My first gen Zenbook has a higher resolution (1600 x 900) than the Mackook Air, but the colours / view angles aren't as good. That being said the newer Zenbook prime is supposed to have much improved colours / viewing angles, and also comes with a 1920 x 1080 resolution.
It's a bit funny.... the biggest problem I have with my current laptop and linux is that I can't get it to NOT sleep when I close the lid. No matter what I do it just wants to sleep. Seems to be the opposite of the problem everyone else has....
> I totally don't get your display argument - how can a display with higher resolution and which can be brighter in any way be a disadvantage?
I'd rather not sideline this with a discussion about resolution and brightness, because frankly, it's one of those subjective, "try it yourself and see what works best for you" sort of things. In short, I view high brightness as a drawback, not a feature, and the resolution + font size is more important on OS X, where I have a much harder time getting everything to a reasonable size for me in concert.
I'm willing to bet none of that sounds familiar - as I said, it's one of those things where, if you have to ask, it's not an issue for you. All I can recommend in your case is that, if you're considering an XPS13, take look at one of the XPS13 models and seeing if that display works for you or not.
> You can't do the opposite if the display does not support it.
Sure, but this display works for me, and there are plenty of things I can do on Linux which I can't on OS X (and which I care about much more).
If my problems aren't issues for you (which they're not) and you really care about display/rendering/etc., then yes, you probably want a Mac and this computer probably isn't for you. I like it because I've never been happy with a Macbook Air, and this is a Linux Ultrabook that "just works".
You seem to assume that you must use OSX on a MacBook. Actually, because that was the topic here, I was assuming that you would also use Linux there - that would also be a better comparison. There are many happy Linux users which use MacBooks.
Anyway, on OSX, you can also do a lot but you are right, there is no official way to change the global font size (afaik) (and you are also right that that wasn't really an issue for me so far). Anyway, most applications have their own settings. (Usually, I even go smaller than the default sizes to have more content on my screen.)
> I was assuming that you would also use Linux there - that would also be a better comparison.
Not really - I'm comparing what works out of the box on both computers with official support and zero tweaking whatsoever.
Even without the XPS13, I'd just as soon get another computer and install Linux on it myself. That way I can choose my own hardware, and I don't have to deal with the annoying Apple keyboards, some of the known Linux issues specific to Apple hardware, and (most importantly), the incredibly irritating delay on the Caps_lock key hardcoded into the firmware (which I believe remains an issue even when running Linux).
Thanks for mentioning the keyboard, I use the Das Keyboard too and the (imo) terrible Mac keyboard has kept me from buying one for serious use. How much have you used Lenovo's laptops? Can you make a comparison to their keyboards?
Edit: the older Lenovo keyboards; reading more comments has informed me that Lenovo's using chiclet keyboards now too.
I feel like I have to chime in whenever the newer Lenovo keyboards get mentioned: I've owned a T61 for over 6 years now and I bit the bullet and bought a W530 when it came out this year despite the complaints about the missing top row of keys and the chiclet-style keyboard.
It's been almost 6 months now and, honestly, these days when I got back to do stuff on my T61 it's a world of difference. The W530's key presses are much more substantial and have a better feel; the quality of the keys seem much better; and the seemingly awkward placement of they keys (excluding the Print Screen key) seem highly justified to me now. And more importantly, the chiclet-style keys are grew on me almost immediately.
I've used the MBA and other chiclet-style keys and the main difference to note is that the Lenovo keys are slightly concave. This, to me, makes the keys feel less chiclet-y and more normal, though they do have the visually noticeable spaces between each key. Compared to the MBA, the MBA's flat keys just don't feel right and I feel make typing less accurate.
That's great to know; I just haven't used the new keyboards so a direct comparison wouldn't have helped me much. The last laptop keyboard I've really liked was the Thinkpad T43 (I might be off by one or two on the model number), but it died a long time ago.
> Can you make a comparison to [Lenovo's] keyboards?
The last time I used a Thinkpad was a couple of years ago, when I was working off of a friend's. I don't remember liking it much; I think this one is better, but to be entirely honest, that was ~2 years ago, so don't put much weight into that.
The main thing that distinguishes this keyboard from Apple's is that the keys aren't as flat - I'm used to tactile and auditory feedback on the Das Keyboard, and while neither Apple's nor Dell's keyboards provide this, having the indentations makes it slightly easier to type quickly (notice how the Das keyboards all have slight indendations too).
Also, the BIGGEST problem with Apple's keyboards for me is the 200ms delay hardcoded in the firmware for the Caps Lock key. I rebind Caps_Lock -> Escape for vim, and this frustrates me to no end.
At the end of the day, neither you nor I are ever going to be happy with any laptop keyboard, since they're all non-mechanical, but I think this as good as we're going to get.
 I have the "silent" (ie, still-audible) one at work and the regular (loud) one at home.
> The main thing that distinguishes this keyboard from Apple's is that the keys aren't as flat - I'm used to tactile and auditory feedback on the Das Keyboard, and while neither Apple's nor Dell's keyboards provide this, having the indentations makes it slightly easier to type quickly (notice how the Das keyboards all have slight indendations too).
That should make a big difference; I'm amazed at the number of typos I make when I'm using a mac. Thanks!
I wouldn't lump all "chiclet" keyboards together. I really disliked Macbook keys (and I gave them a good long try) but the "chiclet" keys on my Logitech K750 are better than any non-mechanical keys I've used. I suspect that it helps that the K750's keys are slightly concave and (unlike Macbook keys) have the standard, .75-inch spacing between rows.
Perfectly - I implied that when I mentioned presentations, but I guess that wasn't clear. If you want only a second monitor, it's completely plug-and-play, with auto-detection.
I've only tried n = 2 monitors with this computer, which works, but in my experience with Linux, if you have any issues it'll be with going from 1->2, not 2->3 (or more). Ubuntu's had good support for this for a while.
This is entirely dependent on the video hardware. Some laptops video cards can support two external displays while the internal display is active and others cannot.
While the Intel HD 4000 supports 3 displays, according to the docs, it only supports them when used with series 7 chipsets and the specs on this ultrabook say it uses the QS67 which is a series 6 chipset.
Long enough for me to use at an all-day conference without worrying about recharging.
I'd estimate somewhere between 6 and 8 hours. It's hard to say because I've never actually run it down fully, but it still estimates another couple hours' worth after I've been using it for 5 hours or so. Estimates should be taken with a grain of salt, but for comparison, that's more than I get on my larger laptop, and comparable to what I get on my Macbook Air.
How robust is it? Does it use plastic or aluminum? How well does the trackpad work under Linux (e.g., does it detect that one finger is resting only resting on it, while you use the trackpad with another finger)?
I see it comes with Ubuntu 12.04 - did you try upgrading (or replacing) that with 12.10? I understand the appeal of the LTS versions, but I'd rather stay up to date, and I'd like to know if things continue to work well if you stray from the officially supported OS version.
I'm also in the market for a linux ultrabook, but considering the price difference I'll prolly go with the samsung chromebook or even with the thinkpad x1 carbon (yes, I'd pay a lot for a better screen resolution/specs-wise).
I mentioned this in another comment - I don't have an exact number, but I can take it to an all-day conference and use it normally without worrying, which is probably more indicative than "batter tests", anyway.
I was considering the Chromebook at one point, but I've heard mixed things about its support for ssh (connection reliability), so the Ultrabook seemed like a better choice even as a dumb remote terminal.
> Did you ever compare the Dell device with other ultrabook hardware, such as Asus Zenbook, HP, etc?
No other Ultrabooks, no, though I've owned both an HP Envy 14 and an HP Pavilion before that. Both always ran Linux well for me. I've tested out other Ultrabooks in the store (all running Windows), and the XPS13 was one of the ones I liked more, though I remember liking one of the Asus models too.
Other hardware may be fine; the big difference for me is the official support (even if I don't use it, it's nice to know it exists). The XPS13 hardware hasn't given me any reason to complain, but I'm also not very particular.
Every time I read this I have to think to my self how silly it is to lead an article with
Some things (particularly components like trackpads and Wi-Fi chips) take some fiddling to get working
Thats total balony, trackpads and WiFi have been well supported in Linux for almost a decade. It is _rare_ to find a labtop that when you install la fresh modern distro on it , things don't work. Yes every now and then you get a vendor who insist on doing something different, but most of the time its a synaptic track pad ( well supported ) and a Broadcom or Intel WiFi card ( well supported ). I can remember back in 2004 taking my Government Issued Dell laptop and installing Fedora on it and everything working out of the box.
I just got a Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon ultrabook 2 days ago and installed Xubuntu 12.10. It really is stunning how the hardware just works. I didn't have to fiddle with any of it - I had out of the box support for the video card, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, etc. Even multitouch trackpad gestures work (although I personally prefer the trackpoint). The laptop itself is nothing short of amazing, especially once you wipe Windows from it. In fact, Lenovo TrackPoints have never worked the way I like in Windows (where you can use the middle mouse button for both middle-clicking and scrolling), but they do in Linux.
I thought I would dislike the new chiclet keyboard, which deviates from IBM/Lenovo's two-decade old keyboard design, but unbelievably, I actually like it. Having used chiclet keyboards on MacBooks, I never liked them, but Lenovo seems to have done it right.
Edit: there's one other issue, but this seems to be a (depressing) trend in the industry: decline in user serviceability of laptops. You can't replace the SSD (it's soldered onto the mobo), and replacing the RAM is not recommended. The price is quite high, especially if you upgrade the SSD (not recommended; just get a 2.5" USB 3.0-powered external HDD - I got a 1 TB one for $70 just a few days ago) or RAM (recommended; 8 GB is always good to have these days, and there's only one slot, so if you replace it later, you'll still have to buy 8 GB), so watch for sales/coupon codes (there was a good one for Black Friday) or use your college .edu address to get a student discount.
Edit 2: Lenovo also changed the power connector to a rectangular shaped one, because the X1 Carbon's profile is too thin to use the old, circular one. This means all your old ThinkPad power cables are now useless.
Huh, I watched a review that said the SSD is soldered to the mobo.
As for the RAM, its absence from the hardware maintenance manual is because Lenovo doesn't recommend/support its replacement. You need to remove 7 screws and the entire bottom base of the laptop to do so.
I'm curious what your experience with the Thinkpad X1 Carbon has been - I was one of the beta testers for the XPS 13 (as noted in my other comment in this thread). I absolutely love the XPS 13, but the X1 Carbon was the other laptop I would have considered getting.
It's been great. It's very light, has good battery life (5+ hours), and is responsive (only tried XFCE) so far. One of the great things about this machine is that it's the same size as 13" ultrabooks, but it has a 14" screen. Some people have said that the 1600x900 screen is a letdown compared to some Asus ultrabooks that sport 1080p displays, but that is most definitely not the case for me. There's more than enough screen real estate for me on the X1 Carbon.
Perhaps it's because I'm running a lightweight Linux distro, but I have absolutely none of the heat problems mentioned in the Verge review. The laptop runs very cool - much more so than my ThinkPad T410.
The trackpad is responsive, although I have little use for it. The keyboard design is fantastic, but the layout is a little annoying. They got rid of the 'back' and forward' keys next to the 'up' key, and I used those all the time in the browser. They also eliminated Scroll Lock, which I had repurposed as a keyboard shortcut. Finally, they moved the multimedia keys from Fn+up/down/left/right to Fn+F10/F11/F12, which is really annoying.
But those are specific to previous ThinkPad owners. The only other real complaint I have is that it's useless for 3D gaming. I installed the Steam Linux beta, and even a game as simple as Cogs stutters. However, I'm not a big gamer, so it's no big loss. In fact, it will probably help my productivity.
Actually, I would go further include the BSDs. I recently installed PC-BSD 9, and the only issue I had was some uncommon aftermarket usb speakers needing a one liner to be recognized on boot. Runs nVidia drivers, etc, etc.
Do you mean suspend/resume? It works fine with Xubuntu. I close the laptop, it turns off. I open it up, it turns back on to the lock screen. Then when I log in, it automatically reconnects to wifi within a few seconds. This is all without any configuration.
Battery life is great, I can get 5+ hours. But remember I'm running XFCE - things may not be the same with Unity or KDE.
I just checked the frequency using the xfce4-cpufreq-plugin package, and it looks like the CPU is scaled down to 800 MHz when on battery (the model I selected has a Core i5-3427U CPU @ 1.80 GHz).
It hasn't gotten hot or noisy so far. The most demanding thing I regularly do on this laptop is watch HD video though, so it's not under that much strain. But there are definitely no issues with coding or web browsing.
Yes, I've heard the news as well. I have no interest in a touchscreen laptop though, particularly if Linux support isn't available. In fact, I would look at the release of the touch version as a chance to get the non-touch version on discount (as it will no doubt be once the touch version is released).
Here's the thing: On most laptops, most things will work "OK enough" under Linux. But there always seems to be some kind of small issue. And even when it works, it often stops working after an upgrade. Like my Toshiba that worked well until an upgrade suddenly made it unable to boot into X, or my ThinkPad that had the annoying fan running all the time for no apparent reason.
That's the problem. It means that if you're a linux expert and can spend some time fixing things each time they break, Linux on Laptops is great. And you're in a better position to fix things when they do, since you can modify the source.
>> But there always seems to be some kind of small issue
Another Toshiba (Satellite L650) owner here. I had major issues with wifi and display. Drove me mad.... Ubuntu forums were helpful, but ultimately ineffective. If I installed it on VMWare... no issues though.... what in the name of heaven is going on.....
>> It means that if you're a linux expert and can spend some time fixing things each time they break
And I didn't have that liberty either, plus you really shouldn't be doing this kind of thing at this day and age, if you know what I mean.
For Linux, I still have to fire up the VM, the RAM usage goes up, the machine heats up.... and the family has a field day teasing me about my obsession with Linux... Frankly, some days I wonder it it's all worth it to jump so many hoops.
That is the truth. I've had Ubuntu on my Dell laptop for years, and it was an entire learning experience to perfect the setup completely to my liking. It was great when I was young and had the time to play around, but recently I made the sad jump to a MacBook, because when it came time to actually work on real projects, I needed a rock solid desktop experience where I didn't have to constantly fiddle with my own computer. My Mac is nowhere near as fun or personal as my Linux setup, but it is what I rely on to do my work. Hopefully this Sputnik project makes Linux what Apple does in terms of the complete hardware/software package
Ubunutu on my new Thinkpad x131e can't change the brightness of the LCD and it runs the battery dry in two hours. Windows 8 can run for 7 hours with bthe brightness at 70%.
The track point sensitivity is too low and I have it at the highest sensitivity. (You need to turn the sensitivity in the settings to the lowest value to get the highest sensitivity!)
Don't get me started on lack of uefi boot support. Grub recognizes Windows 8 but refuses to boot it. I've had to install an msata ssd and put the Windows bootloader on that and install grub and a boot partition on the hdd to get useful dual booting.
I'll take another look. I didn't find a lot two weeks ago.
My device isn't listed on the wiki. I'll have to spend several more hours digging through various pages to find things to try. This is why I don't like linux for laptops. Windows 8 works out of the box. I'd rather just up the ram to 8gb and virtualize linux.
Have you been able to do that in a way so that power consumption doesn't get high? I try to run my laptop so the fan doesn't kick in in normal operation, and when I've tried linux under vmware I've found it gets hot fast.
I've got a thinkpad and have also had trouble getting the trackpad stuff configured the way I want it to work with extra utilities. That's the only problem I've had with it though. I wish the bios just had a way to switch off the trackpad, but leave the buttons above it functioning.
I haven't had time to do that yet. I mainly use the thinkpad for writing and watching videos when I'm away from home. Windows 8 runs evernote and VCL just fine. I go back to my Mac if I want to do development.
I think when people say trackpad support they want full support not just basic support, like there are many laptops that on windows have scroll and hot corners and stuff but on linux you may only get basic functionality.
This is exactly what most people mean. I've instead Linux on my Macbook Pro, compared to the support OS X had Ubuntu's was a joke. Same with wifi, it did not just work out of the box for me. And I know it's lightyears ahead of where it use to be, but that doesn't hide the fact that the default OS X experience was just plain better and hassle free.
Interestingly, I had the opposite experience with my trackpad: on Windows, it just supported the basics along with scrolling along the side. On Linux, it supported a bunch of multi-touch things (like two-finger scrolling and two/three finger button presses), both horizontal and vertical scrolling and circular scrolling (some of these were settings turned off by default, but they could be configured from a nice settings GUI).
Not entirely true, wifi on the wrong chipset was a nightmare till just a few years ago, and even on the right chipset (Intel) there were problems as recently as Oneiric. (I installed it and my Intel wifi throughput went down to .5kb/s, there was an active and angry Launchpad issue about it.)
I just picked up a laptop for a relative that both had trackpad issues, lacked touchscreen support, and even had fn-keys that didn't work (you know, for controlling brightness and volume and such on the laptop) under Linux. And it was a pretty mainstream ASUS with Intel.
Dell Precision M4500. 2 years old. Trackpad scrolling: did not work. Wireless: not working out of the box. SD card slot: not working. Camera: not working out of the box. The list goes on. For me that was the last straw, after using Linux as my main OS since -96 I am now mainly a Windows user. I am too old to spend hours investigating the state of kernel patches to get basic hardware working.
I love Linux but the state of hardware support has reached a steady state in my opinion. Things break, others start working, then they break again.
I'm not disputing your point, but as a long-time application developer (and of course general computer user), I had to look up what the difference was. I've never had the need to switch between them (that I'm aware of). In what circumstances does it become important?
This is done to save battery life. In most situations the integrated graphics are more than enough, so the dedicated graphics chip can be turned off. If, however, that isn’t transparent to the user (i.e. happens automatically and on the fly) it’s nearly useless. Who is going to bother and reboot to switch graphics?
This is a pretty standard feature, available in all Apple laptops with dedicated graphics and many (if not all) Windows laptops with dedicated graphics.
If you don't mind me asking, what would you be playing under Linux that would require discrete graphics? Modern integrated graphics are much, much better than they were a few years ago and you should be able to play any Source game, for instance, without trouble. Now they won't handle Crysis gracefully, of course, but if you're resorting to running things under wine then you have to expect some level of breakage.
Linux seems to work fine on 90% of laptops, but from a consumer perspective, I don't want a 10% risk that some little thing won't work.
You're right in that I can be reasonably certain that a laptop I buy will run Linux, but I can't be certain that there won't be issues. And I can't be certain that the random forum poster who successfully is using Linux on the model I want to buy uses their device like I do - maybe they never sleep and always shutdown, or don't ever use bluetooth, or don't care about USB 3.0, or never use two-finger scrolling, or don't need to access SAMBA shares, and so I cannot know before my purchase whether it'll do everything I want.
And so, I stick with Windows, because it is the devil I know.
Tell that to the HP Mini 210 that I bought in April 2011.
Synaptic "clickpad" trackpad that claims to support multitouch: Sorry, only with their Windows driver. Not only I don't get multitouch in Ubuntu, but I can't even click or drag/drop anything. Ubuntu 12.04 claimed to fix the issue with clickpads, but it didn't work out of the box, and even after extensive tweaking, some features were still very buggy. In the end, I switched to a laptop that has a traditional trackpad without the multitouch bullshit.
Broadcom wifi card: Works fine once you install the additional driver. But there's a catch: last time I checked, the driver didn't come with the install CD. So I have to download it in order for wifi to work ... but I need wifi in order to download it. Ended up digging out an old ethernet cable from a dusty closet and crawling under another closet to connect it to the modem. Not pleasant!
Of course, most of the problem lies with hardware vendors who don't release fully functional open-source Linux drivers for their gadgets. But since when does the average user care whose fault it is that their trackpad doesn't work? The great thing about this Dell release is that all their drivers are fully functional and freely available as a PPA. Because without those drivers, few of today's latest PC laptops work with Linux out of the box.
Your doing it wrong  A Single data point does not a result make. Others have had no problems with that exact laptop. For a counter point I could never get the CD-ROM hotplug working on my old dell laptop in windows. Clearly windows doesn't support CD-ROMS.
It is quite clear what perpetually means in that sentence. Are you really trying to start an argument about semantics with a stranger on the Internet? Do you consider this the best use of your one finite lifetime?
As in, every time I install Linux on a new laptop, as I have several times over the past 5 years or so, problems with WiFi continue to reoccur, and require some level of googling around to resolve. Yet, years later, with an updated distribution on a new computer, they occur again, perpetually.
The problem can remain perpetually unfixed at the distribution level if everyone who installs it is willing to spend time tinkering around to get things to work right.
But you're applying the data point of "I didn't have any problems" as your generalisation, I can say from having installed Linux on a weird amount of laptops recently that occasionally things like the trackpads will not have full features, occasionally webcams will fail to be found and/or not work properly and so on. But the thing is, that's just my experience with one specific distro (Ubuntu 11.04) out of the box, and shouldn't be taken for a whole.
Things will break, I fully agree, but for the most part they work really really well. I have installed Linux on scores of laptops , and I have seen some stuff just not work, but in general ( and I think you will find this to be the consensus around the community ) it works great and most laptops work with nothing more then a fresh install of your Distro of choice .
Don't get me wrong, for the most part things do seem to work really well, staggeringly so when you think about how much clout a free upstart like Linux should have. However, certain hardware has got poor support on Linux and people do get bitten by it every now and again, my argument was mostly your single data point, and my single data point and kijin's data point don't make a conclusive one as the same model of laptop might actually have a WiFi card from one manufacturer which craps out or one that works perfectly.
But for the most part Linux does cover hardware pretty well, and I've not seen a 'core' part of a laptop not work properly for a long while.
For the most part they have awesome API's used to manage those things. Everyone uses the NetworkManager API because it works really really well, and the XrandR API was _ supposed_ to support all the rendering configuration ( most free drivers support it fairly well ). There are also kernel API's for power management, but consider that powermanagement is a little more complex then setting some registers, there is a full stack of changes that need to be made, like when your screen turns off do you want you DE to know to lock the sesison, how about _when_ to turn off stuff, how does a cog type program know when to power stuff down if it doesn't integrate with the DE and X server. also how would the GPU know when to power down if it wasn't integrated with X11. when you get into the grits of power management it really makes sense to have it handled as a system. There might me some abstraction that could be done through D-Bus, but in the end its going to be a big integrated system.
Earlier you claimed that linux support was good. It doesn't make many counter examples to contradict that. YMMV is not Good.
You had an experience where linux worked. Some other have been able to struggle machines over the line previously but this is not evidence of maturity.
> Others have had no problems with that exact laptop.
If ever there was clear evidence of platform immaturity, this is it.
It's common to read in this forum and others comments like yours, "oh linux has been well-supported on laptops for years" and then to optimistically go out and buy hardware, or try something, and find that you can't boot or similar. Just three weeks ago I had a hell of a time trying to get different distributions of linux (including ubuntu) to boot consistently on a three year old macbook with dual video cards. The problem seems to be caused by an issue that has been known about for two years, but with much fiddling in grub I couldn't get it to the stage where it would boot every time. And then there were all sorts of suspend/resume problems.
Wireless has definitely not been mature for a decade. Wireless on ubuntu has been mature from backend to user interface for about four years. Earlier than that there were all sorts of things that should have been done in the background being done in gnome tooling, and it caused suspend/resume problems on some platforms, and configuration was broken. Maybe a commenter could point out that there was some magic combination that didn't have that problem. Doesn't matter. magic combinations != mature.
Another favourite is where you install the base distribution, and things work, but then you make reasonable changes using the approved package management system and all sorts of crap just starts breaking. Flash stops working, or audio vanishes, or your display doesn't work in X any more, or your second display stops working.
Yes, but you can't say it doesn't work because it didn't work _for me_. I have found people are really quick to blame Linux when things aren't working on their Linux laptop , but they blame everything else before they blame windows when it happens on a windows based system. Thats why you should always check the consensus of the community* most of the time they can point you in the right direction
*I would just like to point out that in addition to having just a good if not better hardware support across the board , Linux really excels with its community and availability of online resources to fix most problems. I know some people don't like the idea that they might need to go look for solution and just want things to work , and I understand that, but I like knowing if I need it there is help out there I can leverage. Things will break no matter what OS your running and someone will need to fix it.
Not arguing against your point, but there's gotta be a fallacy for this. I know people that refuse to eat a restaurant because they got sick or the food wasn't very good a single time. Or they will never buy a brand of car because they know one person that had a bad experience.
I can imagine people base their computer purchase the same way.
"It is _rare_ to find a labtop that when you install la fresh modern distro on it , things don't work..."
Nunh-unh. I recently tried to repurpose an original MBA to Ubuntu 12.10 because it isn't supported by current OSX. While I was very favorably impressed by the current state of the Ubuntu out of the box experience, it just didn't work smoothly on the MBA:
* Sleep/wake wasn't smooth, often had to click the mouse or the power button to wake it;
* "right click" is an unintuitive two-finger tap that is often falsely detected as you attempt a two-finger scroll gesture -- the Mac convention of control-click isn't recognized;
* there is a persistent "serious problem" warning that pops up a couple of times every time it wakes up, related to a known bug with the graphics adapter -- it was harmless but would be dead scary to the novice I planned to give the machine to -- and it wasn't fixed after several weeks.
* After I plugged headphones into the jack, the internal speaker went silent. Ubuntu still knew whether there was a headphone in the jack or not, but the speaker never sounded again.
I finally put OSX Snow Leopard back on it and of course, everything "just worked" (including the internal speaker). The recipient will just have to live with end of life software.
A couple of years ago an issue with the USB3 driver broke suspend on laptops with USB3 for quite some time, requiring workarounds. Multi-touch trackpads took some time to get full gesture support. Auto-switch between paired graphics cards still doesn't work.
That's not to say things aren't pretty good now - but to imply that linux doesn't require some fiddling about under the hood hardware-wise is stretching a lot.
Mint didn't work on my t510 laptop (I bought the laptop refurbish three months ago after my lenovo t4xx die after 10 years of usage).
I reinstalled it with kubuntu 12.10 and the volume buttons doesn't work nor some of the fn+command keys. Sometime the touchpad just die and I have to restart the computer if I really want the touchpad (I use vim+tmux to dev so I don't need the touchpad unless I want to surf the web).
As for what was wrong with mint. After Nvidia's driver update sleep wouldn't work, it would sleep forever like sleeping beauty unless you hold down the power button for several second to turn the laptop off and reboot.
you just have a different value for baseline. I assure you that getting multi-touch trackpads ready for more than two finger gesture support under x does indeed remain quite fiddly in the majority of cases today.
> Some things (particularly components like trackpads and Wi-Fi chips) take some fiddling to get working.
Trackpads and wi-fi has been working for me for a long time(not implying this isn't a problem for many people), but what drives me completely insane is the video cards. If you are planning to run linux, seriously re-consider buying laptops with hybrid graphics. The graphic card might or might not run, the card switching will most likely not work, but you can ignore it since you can work with the intel card, right? Well, no. Most of the AGP, whether used or not, will eat up power, the fan will run at full speed and your laptop's behind will be hot enough to stir fry some veggies.
If you have a laptop with hybrid graphics, and you can't make it work, just switch off your discrete card.
Laptops in general, and linux laptops tend to run hot. However, don't mess with power settings a lot. Putting harddisks on powersaving mode(refer hdparm) so that they become idle puts unnecessary strain on the disk. You can try out experimenting with cpu frequency(cpufreq-set).
What's funny is that they put this project on their IdeaStorm website when they started it a few months ago, to get feedback from Linux devs. Almost all of the higher ranking suggestions were about the need for a higher screen resolution, and still they went for 1366x768...
I was with them right up until this. Even the very similarly speced Lenovo Yoga 13 has a higher resolution screen (1600x900). I've nearly given up on using my 2011 Mac Book Pro simply because the screen resolution is awful.
It's not. Anything lower than 1440x900 is a deal breaker for me. I rather take a hit in performance than go down to 1366x768. You know something is wrong when your 4.3" phone screen has the same resolution as your 13" laptop.
First, at the low end, manufacturers emphasise the screen size, but avoid mentioning resolution, so in my local supermarket there are cheap laptops prominently advertised as 15", but they only have 1366x768 resolution. Perhaps that's what the customers want: a big screen that they can use to watch videos in their bedrooms.
If this were a low end laptop destined to be used by everyone I could understand. But this is a high end computer meant to be used by developers and it's just a hair under the price of Retina Mac Book Pros and right up with the price of a Mac Book Air. The offering isn't quite as competitive as I would have hoped and for that cost there are a multitude of other options available that are better.
Agreed, web sites today pretty much demand far more resolution than what we had in the 1990's. I imagine it's cheaper and that's why the trend has gone this way but this is a pitiful trend. I think it might be lower than new smart phones.
I'm happily using a laptop at 1280x800, and though I miss the big monitor I used when I had my big beast of a machine set up, I can't say I feel constrained; I just use fewer screen splits in Emacs. Still, for $1500, I'd expect better.
That's the resolution of all the XPS 13's, I believe. The specs that are different for this model are CPU, memory, graphics card, etc.; things that are likely easy to change. I suppose laptop screens aren't one of those.
"... retains the pilot version's 1366x768 display resolution."
Why would Dell use such a low-resolution screen? My phone is higher resolution than this laptop. Visual information density is very useful to "devops" Dell is said to be targeting and hi-dpi enables this.
Yeah, i stopped reading as soon as I saw what the resolution is. I have a current 13" (ASUS u36sd with more ram & a ssd I put in) and really, the screen is the only thing I dislike on my laptop now, which I've had for over a year now. Give me more pixels :(
I think 4-2 is the 2011 Macbook Air. I've been thinking about getting the 2012 and putting Ubuntu on there, but there seem to be a number of semi-unsupported steps required to resolve kernel panics, you have to disable apic support and various other issues.
I regret that there's no good documentation for installing on the 5-2 (2012 13" Air), something I have to take some responsibility for since I run Ubuntu on such a laptop and didn't share my experiences.
In short, most things work fine on Ubuntu 12.10. I first tried using this guide to install Ubuntu 12.04, but had lots of gnarly install issues. I then tried with the regular 'amd64+mac' graphical installer for Ubuntu 12.10 beta, and got it running easily. I was able to ignore most of  except for installing and configuring macfanctld, and making the touchpad perform decently using the advice in . (Unlike the author of , I hate tap-to-click, so I turned the TapButton[1-3] settings off.)
There are still a few nagging issues I haven't fixed. The Air boots with brightness at the max and won't let me turn it down until logged in, and it loses my touchpad settings on reboot, so I have a little bash script I run to fix them.
Here is a question (sorry to try and hijack this thread): this is a great laptop, but while we're at it, have people had good experiences with other ultrabooks?
My experience has been that things like EFI have made it impossible to boot linux on recent macbooks (I have tried!), and many ultrabook hardware just doesn't work on linux. Graphics won't show up, the thing won't boot, SATA hard drives not found, etc.
Many of the websites I used to rely on (eg, linux-laptop.net) have very out of date information. Ubuntu has a list of certified machines (http://www.ubuntu.com/certification/) but still, it doesn't tell me much about ultrabooks released in the past year.
Are there any new resources I'm missing? Or personal experiences people can share?
As for myself, I'm successfully running Mint on a Toshiba Portege ultrabook. But that is the flimsiest computer I've ever used!
For the near-1kg range: Samsung Series 9 (NP900X3C-A01US)
Ubuntu 12.04.1 installs & runs without modification, but some minor Fn keys didn't work (e.g., WiFi toggle button).
Arch Linux with systemd installs & runs fine, and it had great battery life because 'rfkill block all' seems to more thoroughly power-down those circuits on Arch than Ubuntu. (well over 7 hours with wired ethernet, plus Emacs and Firefox in heavy use)
I have one of these. The hardware is completely supported on Debian but I couldn't handle the shallow keyboard, so I went back to my Thinkpad. Probably would feel the same about any Ultrabook though. I miss the glorious screen but the keyboard is more important.
My ThinkPad X201 is great for the most part. There are some issues with the wifi. The wifi icon will sometimes disappear so I have to manually restart nm-applet. I also have a tough time connecting to public wifi (or the connection is dead when I'm connected), which other computers connect to easily.
I have a Sony Z series, and it works reasonably well. The external dock/graphics card thing that connects via LightPeak is very cool but doesn't work at all on Linux. (To be fair, it doesn't work under Windows 8 either :P), but apart from that, it's been a great laptop.
I remember fondly the days when a 15" 1024x768 noninterlaced monitor was the highest resolution you could get for a PC (excepting exotic hardware that only supported AutoCAD), but that was 20 years ago!
Hopefully this (and the Surface RT) mean vendors are experimenting with ways to get the last of the crap resolution panels out of inventory and this generation of hardware will be the last.
Seriously, my 4.7" cell phone has 768 pixels in the short dimension. For a "developer laptop" this is unacceptable.
I was excited when I heard about this initial project, and was holding out for the official release specs. The display is a big disappointment, and show stopper for me.
I do agree this is a great first step and partnership for hardware manufacturers, specifically for device drivers.
I really do hope this is successful enough that Dell sustains the product line and continues to iterate on improving it over the next couple years. I would love a Mac Airbook alternative ultrabook for development.
Additionally, let's hope this spurs some competition in the market for other manufacturers. I've done ZERO market analysis, but it seems like quite a niche market that is rip for the picking (*NIX DEV Ulatrabook), and has the potential for decent profits w/ the right hardware specs and pricing.
Kudos to Dell for taking the imitative in the right direction. Let's see how it pans out.
It's great to see Dell doing something that resembles innovation, and it's great to see laptops that can run Linux out of the box. But honestly I just don't trust Ubuntu after they built advertising ('online scope results') into their interface. How much more will they cripple their distro as they struggle to monetize? I understand Ubuntu is free, but this fact doesn't benefit the end-consumer much because Microsoft gives Windows to OEMs for practically free and the cost of OSX is irrelevant.
Most people who should be using Linux know how to install it on a wintel machine. I'd rather see Dell put 100% of its open source effort into releasing Linux-compatible drivers for all its laptops instead of marketing niche products.
Thanks for the correction, my information is old. My friend in the XP days told me a company he worked with got licenses for something like 25 dollars each. I just did a google search and it looks like OEM prices have been rising and are much higher now.
Is it too much to ask to go to dell.com and see pictures of their products?
Steps I've taken, and since given up:
1. Type in dell.com
2. Decide that I am looking for "For Home > Ultrabooks"
3. Scroll long page of laptops
4. Decide to narrow page down to 12-15 inch screens
5. Find XPS-13
6. Get taken to a configuration page
7. Sees no "view pictures of computer" button/link
The pics on ars makes the machine look good, the bottom kinda reminds of of the nexus 7's profile
Dell has a bunch of engineers working on Linux support for this notebook, they have to pay them somehow. I don't mind paying an extra $50. The big problem is that the Linux version will probably never go on sale, yet the Windows version will be on sale more often then not so there will be a lot more than a $50 delta. I hope I'm wrong.
Just another chiming in here with nerd rage at low screen resolutions these days.
Absolutely crazy to make a "developer" laptop that can't even display the full standard page size that web developers will target web pages to. The surface pro has more resolution. The Nexus 4 and Nexus 7 have nearly the same and the Nexus 10 is nearly double in each direction and all these Nexii are priced < $400.
You can get very nice, lightweight laptops that run Linux perfectly for much less, even from Dell (such as the Dell 14z which was only $300 on black friday). The main tips are to look for laptops that don't have dual graphics cards (nvidia optimus - although it will still work with http://bumblebee-project.org/ ), and google for the laptop model plus "linux" or "ubuntu" to see other folks' experiences with it.
The main issue now though are the new Windows 8 tablets (the Pro ones that mostly are not out yet) - we'll have to see how well they run Linux distros.
I have a Lenovo Ideapad y570, and it does have dual graphics, but it doesn't need Optimus. It has a physical switch, so that means I can use either one whenever I want in Linux or Windows.
I actually think it has more problems in Windows, as sometimes when I switch them, my USB 2.0 driver seems to die, and doesn't recognize the mouse anymore (USB 3.0 one still works), and I have to reboot to get it working again. Not sure why that happens.
The laptop itself looks great, but what are the opinions on the profile tool? Doesn't something like http://vagrantup.com/ with vubdle, pip, rubygems, apt make it obsolete?
Also, linux dev environments are finnicky because every developer has their own miniscule variant that drives them crazy if it doesn't exist. Pre-made dev environments seem like the antithesis of this.
edit: It seems I have slightly misunderstood. It seems more like chef-solo for dev tool configs.
Dell emailed me a number of times about this, but it never made sense to me personally. I adore Dell as a company, and the Dell Vostro laptop I bought in 2007 performs splendidly to this day running the Ubuntu I installed on it. The thing is, installing Ubuntu didn't take me too much effort in 2007, and it shouldn't today. Seeing as how they are targeting this Sputnik as a developer machine, almost everyone should be able fix up any quirks in a zip.
The pricing also doesn't make sense to me, but it may to some. I know some people, especially professionals who buy machines as part of their work expense, would willingly walk into an Apple store and buy a MacBook at its retail price. In that regard, this Ubuntu XPS 13 is not that out of line. However, in the Windows world, you'd have to be stupid to buy any computer at MSRP. In fact, it's pretty much not possible due to all the discounts thrown on. I've seen these XPS 13 Ultrabooks go down to $799 on the street, and that's with a nice Windows 8 license thrown in (and installed and configured nicely; you may not think this, but configuring up a clean Windows install onto a laptop can be easily as much of a pain as configuring a Linux install). You might not need Windows, but why not take it as a bonus even if you immediately throw Ubuntu onto the next partition? This option also means you're using the latest Ubuntu build instead of Dell's own channel based on LTS (could be a pro or con, but you could also opt for LTS yourself as well).
All that said, however, I understand and applaud the idea of making a complete hardware/software package as seamless as a MacBook. I don't doubt this would make for a great option for consumers who want a smooth experience with Linux.
This machine seems lame to me at best (1366x768? Really?).
I did a lot of shopping around about a month or two ago. There were only three serious contenders. Asus UX32VD, Sony Vaio Z 15 and Thinkpad X1 Carbon.
Out of this bunch, Thinkpad was out because of insane price in EU and because Asus had a better screen and massivelly better value. Sony didn't qualify because it felt cheap and I really dislike Sony as a company. So I the only real worthy computer was Asus UX32VD.
Running Ubuntu 12.10 I am super happy with it (although shame on Nvidia for not supporting Optimus on Linux). If I were buying a computer now, I would probably buy Asus U500 (15.4" and Quad Core CPU).
But I am still in market for a new Thinkpad, when Lenovo comes to its senses and releases something 14" with 1080 or 1200 resolution and Quad core CPU.
I have a feeling that next year the laptop market for developers will be awesome.
I'm not sure how they plan to compete with Macs? The price is definitely not competitive. I care about computing experience. When it comes down to it, I haven't found a better *nix workstation than my Macbook Pro.
I love Ubuntu. I use it for all of my server deployments. I'd love an Ubuntu laptop that works well. But, it has to work better than my Macbook Pro for me to consider switching.
If Dell shows solid support behind this ultrabook, I would consider to get one. My attention would be on upgrade and support. I am over the age where I would be happy just because the new version Linux happened to run on my laptop. Too many times the next version would bring some incompatibilities and I had to search for patches, and recompile the kernel and Fuck it, I just want to get work done and the last thing I concern should be the OS. Just for cars I damn care less for what OS is running under the hood, the same should apply to computers. Full operations is a must, not by chance. Sorry for the language, frustrated to see the current state of Linux still in a mess in PC/laptop after 10+ years (I ran Linux-only in college circa 1998). Yes I am using a Mac now. Not because it rocks, at least it doesn't suck that much.
It's a good first attempt, but it's going to need some work. The screen is pretty bad, but the one thing that puts me off is pretty much any Dell I've used has had a terrible keyboard and trackpad, but I've not used one for a while now so I'm hoping they've fixed that for this.
So what's the point of this, for Dell's bottom line? Even with the relatively steep price, a developer-focused laptop is not going to be a best-seller. And in a few years, how many of those driver developers are going to be fully-focused on updating software for a niche laptop?
As much as I wish it were the case, what developers adopt is not always what will be profitable to the masses. And this ends up biting developers in the end. My Macbook Air is good enough that I don't think I need to go back to Linux...and I can be relatively confident that even if Apple continues to screw with the OS, the Apple OS X user base is so massive that niceties like homebrew will be supported as long, if not longer, than the niceties for a developer-focused laptop.
I bought one of these laptops shortly after the whole sputnik ppa was launched to replace a stolen macbook.
I guess you can call me a beta tester, but I paid full price for the laptop at Best Buy so I could be up and running in a day after being robbed.
First couple weeks were annoying as the fixes for the cypress touchpad were not available. Once Dell got the patches in their kernel it's been a great laptop.
Physically I've found it easy to carry and handle. It looks great with the aluminum lid and carbon fiber bottom.
I'm a sysadmin, I generally prefer Linux. My one foray into apply with a 13in MBP left me knowing that I wasn't going to go back to Apple any way. I'm not going to compare OS's, I'm just someone happier with Linux.
I tried other Ubuntu variants with the laptop. Bodhi and Mint both installed fine, newer versions included the touchpad kernel updates from the main Ubuntu distribution so it worked out the box. I did end up installing the sputnik ppa and using that kernel to keep the brightness keys working. Over all I didn't have a lot of luck with e17 and volume/brightness at all. However, I'm not sure if that's the laptop or e17 as I haven't had luck with those on my workstation at work as well.
The resolution sucks. I mean, it's fine for doing some general web programming in python with a full screen tmux terminal and browser(s) in another virtual desktop. You need to start remote desktop to Windows servers and such and you really begin to hate the vertical resolution limit. I solved this by hooking it up to a monitor when working and using the laptop display as a second screen for email and such. Now that laptops are coming up with higher resolution screens by default I'll not get something that low ever again.
The specs on mine are 4GB RAM, core i5 (2 core + hyperthreading) and a 128GB SSD. Video on all of them in Intel HD3000 I believe. I don't do a lot of virtualization, I can see why they would increase the RAM and CPU for the developer edition if they expect developers to be spinning up VMs. I've never really taxed the memory on it with anything I do. Caveat I'm a sysadmin who plays around with developing websites with Python/Tornado on the side, I don't do a lot anyway. I believe I was able to soak the cpu pretty good playing with golang a few times.
The only issues I've really had with the laptop are the resolution of the laptop display and the fact it runs really hot playing Team Fortress 2 in the Steam for Linux Beta. CPU core temps reach over 190F regularly while playing and if you block airflow out the back it will shut down on you (learned that the hard way). Really makes me miss my Alienware M11x for gaming purposes.
Other issues I've had with laptops in the past have been hinges. I have yet to experience any issues with the hinges on this laptop.
Over all the resolution is the one knock I'd give the system for a developer system, especially with the developer edition having more memory and cpu that the model I have. If you already have a monitor and plan to use it for extended sessions with the laptop I think you'll find it great.
This is awesome to see more "native" Linux hardware coming out.
I'd love to be able to use Linux more, every time I've tried to make a switch though I've inevitably had to jump back to Windows because some bit of hardware just isn't compatible or working well enough.
And FWIW, I've had major problems with wifi and integrated graphics display as recently as Ubuntu 12.04! Virtual Linux on Win 7 works fine though. And I've been with Linux since Slackware 1.0/RHEL 5 (and several distros later....), still not given up on Linux.... continue to be hopeful....
I'm missing the point of these laptops that focus on extreme weight reduction. Can someone chime in on the relative benefit of these more expensive yet compromised machines? They seem to compromise on cost and features for the sake of lower mass. But most of the time your laptop is sitting on a surface while you are working. You aren't working while holding it in your hands like you might be with a tablet. So why deal with a 12" or 13" screen when you can have a 15" or more and still carry it under your arm from your home to the coffee shop?
> You aren't working while holding it in your hands like you might be with a tablet.
Why not? I do this all the time. I also bike with it in my backpack, pick it up with one hand, toss it on my bed, hold it sideways to read a paper while laying down. And it's also dual core with 4GB of ram and a long battery life, where is the compromise?
I don't understand why you would put up with an unwieldy machine for such insignificant benefits in processing power and screen size.
A regular laptop is fine in a backpack, holding with one hand, and tossing onto a bed. You could probably prop it up sideways and read a paper on it as well, although I'd probably use a tablet for that instead. I think your last sentence answers my question though.
Small laptops are really valuable. You can take them on a plane in a carry-on bag and have more room in your bag. It doesn't hurt your back to carry them for a few blocks. You can even carry other things.
If you don't move your laptop, you should get a desktop.
I move my laptop, but I don't hike 30km with it so I'm not hyper sensitive to weight. I can carry it multiple blocks in a backpack with other things just fine. I suppose if screen size and cost were complete non-issues, then I'd preference the lighter, smaller ultrabooks since there is no downside left.
I'm going to throw myself out there on this one... but what's wrong with Skype on Linux? I rarely use it (so maybe that's why I'm not understanding), but I've done interviews for multiple podcasts on two different laptops (both with 12.04) and I've never had a problem.
I seem to have a lot of trouble with how it manages the brightness of my camera. `luvcview` displays a working, normal image, but Skype really dims the lights. Also, people report that they receive the message, "requires Skype premium" when the attempt to begin a screen sharing session.
These issues make Skype on Ubuntu a non-starter for me.
On ultrabooks: This looks very nice, but I'm a TrackPoint guy, so, while I am excited to see the ultrabooks, I can't use these or MacBook Airs. I purchased a Lenovo X1 Carbon about 2 months ago. It has a TrackPoint and I can't recommend it highly enough. So if you're a Linux user looking for a great ultrabook, check out the X1 Carbon (but make sure to get the 8GB model...)
EDIT: obviously, the X1 Carbon doesn't have the same level of Ubuntu support, but the out-of-the-box experience is perfect.
For those using other distributions than Ubuntu on their XPS13s, I am collecting the necessary kernel patches to get both the trackpad and backlight keys working here: http://lorenzo.villani.me/dell-xps13/
(Unfortunately, information to get this hardware working on other distributions is spread out across several web sites, git repositories and bug reports, that's why I created the page).
My biggest gripe about the ultrabook series is the dismal screen. I ended up purchasing an Asus Zenbook (1600x900) and lived with the quirky mouse issues (patches and such) until the newest kernel. Now Asus Zenbook Prime has upped the resolution to 1920x1080.
Hopefully enough people purchase this laptop for a gen2 to come out and by then hopefully 1600x900 or 1920x1080 on a 13.3" is the standard.
Great idea, but I wish they had worked with the 14 inch one instead. It's more or less the same stuff on the inside. Hopefully with more programs like this from companies like Dell, companies like AMD and Nvidia will take their Linux drivers more seriously. (As in, at least get them to work, let alone play a game or two.)
Yeah, marvellous. Maybe they've released it in the US. Here in the UK I emailed them last week to enquire about whether they would sell me the exact same model with no OS (or anything but Windows), and he answer was just simply 'no way'.
The UK seems to be terrible for getting Linux pre-installed. I've noticed a few major OEMs release Linux laptops elsewhere, but never bring them to the UK. There's nothing like System76, while smaller countries like the Netherlands seem to have companies something like that.
Do our laws let Microsoft get anti-competitive exclusivity deals? Or are we Brits so establishment-loving that the market isn't there?
Sorry, I should have been clearer: system 76 will ship to the UK, and even now offer UK keyboards for some models. What we don't have is any UK based company like that, selling in GBP and without international shipping charges.
OK, there is linuxemporium.co.uk - but it's mostly selling old stuff, and doesn't exactly look professional.
I didn't find any official information about battery life. Anyone know about that?
Personally good power management is what I miss with linux, it seems that I can only get around 2/3 of battery life in Ubuntu comparing to Windows.
Linux is like Europe. Kissenger can't call it on the phone. The laptop isn't a win for Linux. It's a win for Ubuntu. It doesn't do squat for any other distro.
Linux has success. It can continue to be successful on its own terms. But it will never be successful in the same way as Windows. Just as Windows will never be successful in the same way as the Mac ecosystem, and the Mac ecosystem will never be successful in the same way as Linux.
I don't want to juggle all the driver issues, etc... Hence the vitual machine for Linux amongst all the other guest OSes. Best of all worlds. Plus Linux isn't my primary working OS, I use it for testing and hobby programming.
this is rather unrelated, but just now I was reading another chromebook released by Acer on The Verge, and I was left wondering, why does it seems like the vendor adoption of the rather new and unproven Chrome OS seems to be much higher than that of Linux desktop that has been around for the same time (if not longer) as Windows...
They have to be building in a couple hundred dollars for especially driver support because I can't see how this is $1500 without the OS license costs. I think I would still rather go with a MacBook Air.
There's no way I'd buy this given the "ultra" low screen resolution, but maybe that doesn't matter to some developers. They need to target a somewhat higher screen resolution than the MBA if they want to grab my attention.